MIAMISBURG — Rallying has been a common occurrence for Sidney’s baseball team this season. Aside from some come-from-behind wins on the field, the team put together a rallying campaign off the field earlier this season when a player suffered a stroke.
The squad rallied again in a Division I sectional final on Thursday at Miamisburg’s Toadvine Filed. After falling behind by two runs early, the Yellow Jackets scored runs in the sixth and seventh to tie it, then scored two in the ninth to earn a 5-3 extra innings victory over the No. 6 seed Vikings.
“Our team fights,” Sidney coach Thomas Goffena said. “We’ve been fighting through obstacles all year.”
Sidney, which is the sectional’s No. 8 seed, advances to face Vandalia-Butler in a district semifinal on Tuesday at Newton High School.
It’s the first time since 2010 Sidney has advanced to a third-round tournament game. The win also improved to the Yellow Jackets to 20-8 overall, making it the first time since 2007 the squad has reached the 20-win mark.
“It’s so special,” Goffena said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Sidney senior catcher Ryan Strunk suffered a stroke on April 9, not long after the squad beat Stebbins in a Miami Valley League Valley Division game earlier that evening. He was transported by CareFlight to Miami Valley Hospital and spent 10 days there before being released.
The squad sold t-shirts with the slogan “Rally for Ryan,” and donated proceeds to Strunk’s family.
It was a hard time for the entire team on and off the field. On the field, junior Donavin Johnson was forced to take over at catcher.
“People don’t realize how tough that is, with him not catching all year,” Goffena said.
According to Goffena, resiliency has been on display by the team’s players for over a year since last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goffena said that toughness and work ethic is the biggest reason for the team’s drastic improvement since 2019 when it finished 6-20. Sidney’s last winning season was a 16-14 campaign in 2010.
“These kids don’t complain about anything,” Goffena said. “I can tell them to be at the facility at 6 o’clock in the morning, and they’ll all be there on time. It’s a good group of kids, and they love baseball. It’s been awhile since Sidney’s had kids that love baseball. Usually it’s just that they play baseball so that they didn’t have to run track or lift for football. All these kids just love baseball.”
Sophomore shortstop Aiden Booth gave Sidney its first lead of the game in the ninth. He hit the first pitch of the inning over the left-field fence to put the Yellow Jackets ahead 4-3.
The squad added another run. Carson Taylor reached on a walk and moved to second after Jordan Lessing was hit by a pitch. Taylor scored from second two plays later when Ryan Caufield hit a hard ground ball that was misplayed by Miamisburg second baseman Teagan Williams.
Taylor finished his four innings of relief work in the bottom half of the inning. The Vikings hit a two-out double, but Taylor coaxed a pop out to end it.
Taylor, a junior, pitched four innings. The double in the ninth was the only hit he allowed, and he struck out five batters.
“He was lights out,” Goffena said. “That’s a good hitting team, and he was lights out. …He’s just reliable. He’s the most reliable reliever we have. He’s going to throw strikes and keep us in the ball game. That’s what our pitching and defense has done all year, keep us in ball games.”
Mitchell Davis started on the mound and lasted three innings. He gave up two earned runs on three hits and three walks while striking out five batters, but the damage could have been worse.
Miamisburg loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but Davis struck out Ethan Watkins and then coaxed a fielder’s choice ground out the Vikings scored on to take a 1-0 lead. Blake O’Bryan then hit a fly out to end the inning and strand runners on second and third.
The Vikings scored one run in the third after Austin Amburgey hit a single to center field with one out, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a dropped third strike throw to first base. Miamisburg got two more runners on base, but Davis struck out Nathan Ennis to end the inning.
Sidney pulled within 2-1 in the fourth. Lessing hit a single to center field, then Davis hit a double to center two batters later. Lessing was thrown out a home plate on after Caufield hit a grounder to third base, but Davis scored soon after on a wild pitch while Jack Davidson was at the plate.
Gavin Roberts took over on the mound in the fourth, and Miamisburg loaded the bases again with two singles and one walk. Roberts struck out Amburgey but then walked Will Cook to give the Vikings a 3-1 lead. He then struck out Sam Boardwine to end the inning.
Sidney pulled within one run in the sixth. E.J. Davis was hit by a pitch to start the inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a ground out.
Davis then scored when Caufield hit a grounder to Ennis at third base. Davis was initially caught in a run down, but Ennis sent a throw into his back.
The Yellow Jackets tied it 3-3 in the seventh. Taylor and Lessing each hit singles with one out, then Mitchell Davis hit an RBI single to left on a hard grounder with two outs.
Sidney now gets to take the Butler challenge for the third time this season. The Aviators (26-2) are the sectional’s No. 2 seed and were ranked No. 2 in D-I in the most recent state coaches association poll.
Butler steamrolled its way to the overall MVL title and beat Sidney 9-0 on April 12 and 10-0 on April 13 in league contests. The Yellow Jackets managed four hits in those 14 innings against the Aviators.
“They’re great. They’re lights out,” Goffena said. “We can’t give them outs. We can’t make errors. We’ve got to throw strikes. They’ve got dominating pitching. They’ve got dominant hitting. They’ve got no holes in their lineup. We’ve just got to play our best game.”
Booth was 3 for 5 while Taylor was 2 for 3 with two walks. Lessing and Mitchell Davis were each 2 for 4.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.